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Foodie Friday: Cocktail hour with Carben Food + Drink

By Arif Jaffer on October 23, 2015

Nested in Hintonburg, Carben Food + Drink has made an impression on the Ottawa food scene. Foodies across the city rave about their unique use of your not-so-typical ingredients. After opening up earlier this summer, the restaurant received a rave review in Ottawa Magazine, but the review omits an important aspect – Carben’s cocktails.

Bartender Stephane Duval, talks about how his unusual ingredients compliment the flavours of Carben. He shares his fan favourite tea-based cocktail, the Vahdo and his favourite memories behind the bar.

The Vadho

1.5 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon

0.5 oz Brown sugar syrup

~1 oz Earl Grey Tea

Pinch of black pepper


1) Pour all ingredients stirred over ice

2) Strain into rocks glass over large ice cube

3) Garnish with a nasturtium leaf or with a pinch of pepper

Apt613: What’s the story behind the cocktail?

Stephane Duval:  I’m a big fan of bourbon and I really wanted to put a cocktail on our menu using bourbon.  I had also been really interested in experimenting with different types of tea.  Tea is an ingredient that is often overlooked by bartenders but you can extract so many great flavours from it and the variety that you have access too leaves you so many opportunities to do something great.  So I sat down at the drawing board one night and started thinking of ideas for this bourbon drink and stumbled upon the Vahdo.

I was looking for a savoury and somewhat smoky drink which made me consider using Earl Grey Tea.  I added in some of my home-made brown sugar syrup since I believe that it’s a really sexy combination with bourbon. And finally, to keep that smoky flavour running throughout the drink, I stirred the drink with some black pepper.

The reason I named the drink The Vahdo is because I decided to name my cocktails on my menu at Carben after some of my friends and family that have influenced my bartending career throughout the year and since my friend and roommate Eldrinson Vado was with me when I was creating this specific cocktail I decided to give him a bit of credit that way.  Finally, my use of unconventional ingredients for the Vahdo also helped Carben differentiate itself from other restaurants in the city.  Since we are so new on the scene I thought it would be a nice way to create a unique identity for the restaurant.

Who’s your dream drinking buddy?

Daniel Craig as James Bond because of the mystery/intrigue. As well, I’m weak for a good martini and [Ian Fleming] created the Vesper Martini in one of his novels just off the top of his head, which I think was badass. Or Harvey Spectre [on Suits] because the man just means business: he’s the ultimate gentleman and he exemplifies all of the gentleman-like qualities I admire. Plus his sense of fashion is something I really appreciate.

Best cocktail you’ve ever had?

My favourite cocktail I’ve ever had was when I went to New York to celebrate my 21st birthday.  I wanted to check out the cocktail scene there since I aspire to be behind one of those world class cocktail bars.  I knew I was going to be served a work of art but I didn’t think something could taste so delicious.  I had never tasted anything so amazingly good.  It was even better than shawarma believe it or not.

Best cure for having one too many cocktails the night before?

Beer and Mixed Shawarma Plate from Shawarma Palace.

Favourite place to get a drink in Ottawa?

Guest Room Cocktails, Union 613, The Albion Rooms.

Most memorable moment behind the bar?

As for the story of my favourite moment behind the bar, it was within our opening month at Carben Food + Drink. I had had the pleasure to meet some great people who also worked in the industry.  There’s a particular fellow who had come in a few times now with his co-workers and each time he had come in we had a great time.  On this particular evening he came in and was celebrating something.  He asked me to make him something really cool, to which I replied, “Have you ever heard of a Flaming Lamborghini?” He said no, and gave me full liberty to do whatever I pleased, and then I told him that after he would never forget what it was.

I then proceeded to build a tower of glassware higher then I had ever previously done.  When lighting it on fire, I had to jump up onto the bar top to be able to reach the top of the tower and execute the trick.  As this tower was catching fire, it made it extra special because of the large windows all around the restaurant helped gather a little crowd as they were walking by.

Carben Food + Drink is at 1100 Wellington St W, Ottawa, ON. You can reach them at  (613) 792-4000 or make a reservation online. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.